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Diving British Columbia’s Browning Pass and God’s Pocket Provincial Marine Park

Canada, Underwater Photography

“The Best Cold Water Diving in the World” Strong words. True? Probably. I recently spent a week diving in and around Browning Pass, a spectacular underwater ecosystem at the very north tip of Vancouver Island on the West Coast of British Columbia. The area is home to many islands, islets, passages and narrow straights. Extreme daily tides mean a lot of water is moving, continually with the exception of a few slack tide moments each day, producing strong currents that are amplified in the narrow waterways. Such currents bring a steady supply of nutrients to the carpets of invertebrate life that cover the area’s undersea reefs. While I was with Richard Salas last year photographing Steller sea lions — marine mammals being a big interest of mine — he showed me lot of spectacular images from a place called “God’s Pocket”. The images convinced me to join Richard at God’s Pocket for a week and check it out myself. I’m generally not a critter guy nor a macro photographer, but I figured what the hell. British Columbia is said to be some of the best diving in the world. I reasoned I should see it once in my diving career at least.

Hurst Island and Gods Pocket Provincial Park, aerial photo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Hurst Island and Gods Pocket Provincial Park, aerial photo.
Image ID: 34464
Location: Gods Pocket Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Giant Plumose Anemones cover underwater reef, Browning Pass, northern Vancouver Island, Canada, Metridium farcimen

Giant Plumose Anemones cover underwater reef, Browning Pass, northern Vancouver Island, Canada
Image ID: 34326
Species: Giant Plumose Anemone, Metridium farcimen
Location: British Columbia, Canada

The Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora, a large colorful anemone found on the rocky underwater reefs of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Urticina piscivora

The Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora, a large colorful anemone found on the rocky underwater reefs of Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Image ID: 34327
Species: Fish-eating Anemone, Urticina piscivora
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Alabaster Nudibranch, white-lined dirona, Dirona albolineata, Vancouver Island, Dirona albolineata

Alabaster Nudibranch, white-lined dirona, Dirona albolineata, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34329
Species: Alabaster Nudibranch, White-Lined Dirona, Dirona albolineata
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Fleshy Sea Pen, Ptilosarcus gurneyi, Vancouver Island, Ptilosarcus gurneyi

Fleshy Sea Pen, Ptilosarcus gurneyi, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34334
Species: Fleshy Sea Pen, Ptilosarcus gurneyi
Location: British Columbia, Canada

In mid March I made my way from big-city Seattle to small-town Port Hardy. Port Hardy is at the far northern end of Vancouver Island, meaning my dive trip was also a road trip. The ferry rides and winding empty highways are a driver’s delight. The landscapes — rugged coastline, snow-capped mountains and dense forests — are beautiful. I had forgotten how much I love Vancouver Island. I met up with others in Richard’s group, we loaded up our gear on the boat “Hurst Isle” and made our way to rustic, comfortable, colorful God’s Pocket Resort on Hurst Island, in God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park. Tucked away in a quiet cove, the resort sits on sturdy pilings over the rocky shoreline at the edge of a dense stand of cedar trees. It could not be more scenic. Bill Weeks and Annie Ceschi run God’s Pocket Resort and took fantastic care of us for a week. We ate superb food, relaxed thoroughly, took in the sublime beauty of the islands at all times, and three times each day we shared in the spectacular diving the area has to offer.

Pink Soft Coral (Gersemia Rubiformis), and Plumose Anemones (Metridium senile) cover the ocean reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Gersemia rubiformis, Metridium senile

Pink Soft Coral (Gersemia Rubiformis), and Plumose Anemones (Metridium senile) cover the ocean reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34330
Species: Pink Soft Coral, Plumose Anemone, Gersemia rubiformis, Metridium senile
Location: British Columbia, Canada

The Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora, a large colorful anemone found on the rocky underwater reefs of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Urticina piscivora

The Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora, a large colorful anemone found on the rocky underwater reefs of Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Image ID: 34331
Species: Fish-eating Anemone, Urticina piscivora
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Spotted Leopard Dorid, Diaulula odonoghuei, Vancouver Island, Diaulula odonoghuei

Spotted Leopard Dorid, Diaulula odonoghuei, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34338
Species: Spotted Leopard Dorid, Diaulula odonoghuei
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Beautiful Anemone on Rocky Reef near Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Strait, Browning Pass, Canada

Beautiful Anemone on Rocky Reef near Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Strait, Browning Pass, Canada
Image ID: 34340
Location: British Columbia, Canada

White plumose anemones Metridium senile with purple sponge and barnacle, Vancouver Island

White plumose anemones Metridium senile with purple sponge and barnacle, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34341
Location: British Columbia, Canada

The Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora, a large colorful anemone found on the rocky underwater reefs of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Urticina piscivora

The Fish Eating Anemone Urticina piscivora, a large colorful anemone found on the rocky underwater reefs of Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Image ID: 34346
Species: Fish-eating Anemone, Urticina piscivora
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Browning Pass and Balaklava Island, location of the best cold water diving in the world, aerial panoramic photo

Browning Pass and Balaklava Island, location of the best cold water diving in the world, aerial panoramic photo.
Image ID: 34472
Location: British Columbia, Canada

We would typically leave Hurst Island, round Balaklava Island and dive Browning Pass between Balaklava and Nigei Island. About half the time we would be diving on walls, and virtually every dive had a variety of terrain if not actual walls. Water temps were in the low 40s, something I am not accustomed to, but I made do with my dry suit. I am a sluggish cold water diver and mainly settle down on the bottom and try to find cool stuff that doesn’t move to photograph while ignoring how painfully frostbitten my fingers are. I don’t move around much when I am frozen. But there is no need to go far on these Browning Pass dives — everywhere is an explosion of life. Sure, some walls have more colors than others, some are pure white, some are covered in bull kelp, etc, but rarely can a spot be found where one can put one’s hand down without touching animal life. I was stunned at the density of invertebrates. Fish — they were nice but I’m not too interested in rockfish and rockfish-looking species. But the inverts — holy anemones were they over the top! So overwhelming was the underwater sight-seeing that I did an poor job of actually taking photographs. I often did not know which way to point my camera, there was lush and exotic subjects in every direction. With the limited underwater time that we man-fish have while SCUBA diving I was a little frantic in my photography, wanting to get a record of every thing and consequently doing well at very little. I have been doing this long enough and have experienced so much let down in underwater photography over the years that I knew going into the trip I would likely do a poor job and thus had lowered my photographic expectations way way down. So when I returned home and found I had a few keepers, I was able to declare success! Such is the skewed mindset of the underwater photographer.

Purple sponge with white and orange metridium anemones, below bull kelp forest, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Nereocystis luetkeana

Purple sponge with white and orange metridium anemones, below bull kelp forest, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34347
Species: Bull Kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Lopholithodes mandtii Puget Sound King Crab amid a field of plumose anemones and red kelp, Queen Charlotte Strait, Canada, Lopholithodes mandtii

Lopholithodes mandtii Puget Sound King Crab amid a field of plumose anemones and red kelp, Queen Charlotte Strait, Canada
Image ID: 34348
Species: Puget Sound King Crab, Lopholithodes mandtii
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Hooded Nudibranch Melibe leonina on kelp and rocky reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Canada, Melibe leonina

Hooded Nudibranch Melibe leonina on kelp and rocky reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Canada
Image ID: 34353
Species: Hooded Nudibranch, Melibe leonina
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Clown Nudibranch, Triopha catalinae, Browning Passage, Vancouver Island, Triopha catalinae

Clown Nudibranch, Triopha catalinae, Browning Passage, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34354
Species: Clown nudibranch, Triopha catalinae
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Anemones cling to Bull Kelp Stalk, Browning Pass, British Columbia, Nereocystis luetkeana

Anemones cling to Bull Kelp Stalk, Browning Pass, British Columbia
Image ID: 34357
Species: Bull Kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Beautiful Anemone on Rocky Reef near Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Strait, Browning Pass, Canada

Beautiful Anemone on Rocky Reef near Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Strait, Browning Pass, Canada
Image ID: 34361
Location: British Columbia, Canada

White Plumose anemones Metridium senile and Yellow Sulphur Sponge, Vancouver Island, Metridium senile

White Plumose anemones Metridium senile and Yellow Sulphur Sponge, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34366
Species: Plumose Anemone, Metridium senile
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Colorful starfish and anemones cling to submarine rocks, on the subtidal reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Metridium senile

Colorful starfish and anemones cling to submarine rocks, on the subtidal reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34370
Species: Plumose Anemone, Metridium senile
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Colorful anemones cover the rocky reef in a kelp forest near Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Strait.  Strong currents bring nutrients to the invertebrate life clinging to the rocks

Colorful anemones cover the rocky reef in a kelp forest near Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Strait. Strong currents bring nutrients to the invertebrate life clinging to the rocks.
Image ID: 34379
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Giant Plumose Anemones cover underwater reef, Browning Pass, northern Vancouver Island, Canada, Metridium farcimen

Giant Plumose Anemones cover underwater reef, Browning Pass, northern Vancouver Island, Canada
Image ID: 34389
Species: Giant Plumose Anemone, Metridium farcimen
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Red Irish Lord resting amid Plumose Metridium Anemones, Browning Pass, British Columbia, Metridium farcimen

Red Irish Lord resting amid Plumose Metridium Anemones, Browning Pass, British Columbia
Image ID: 34391
Species: Giant Plumose Anemone, Metridium farcimen
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Plumose anemones cover the ocean reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Canada, Metridium senile, Nereocystis luetkeana

Plumose anemones cover the ocean reef, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Canada
Image ID: 34395
Species: Plumose Anemone, Bull Kelp, Metridium senile, Nereocystis luetkeana
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Pink Soft Coral and Barnacle, Gersemia Rubiformis, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island, Gersemia rubiformis

Pink Soft Coral and Barnacle, Gersemia Rubiformis, Browning Pass, Vancouver Island
Image ID: 34425
Species: Pink Soft Coral, Gersemia rubiformis
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Colorful anemones and soft corals, bryozoans and kelp cover the rocky reef in a kelp forest near Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Strait.  Strong currents bring nutrients to the invertebrate life clinging to the rocks, Metridium senile

Colorful anemones and soft corals, bryozoans and kelp cover the rocky reef in a kelp forest near Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Strait. Strong currents bring nutrients to the invertebrate life clinging to the rocks.
Image ID: 34429
Species: Plumose Anemone, Metridium senile
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Gods Pocket Resort, on Hurst Island, part of Gods Pocket Provincial Park, aerial photo

Gods Pocket Resort, on Hurst Island, part of Gods Pocket Provincial Park, aerial photo
Image ID: 34470
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Gods Pocket Resort, on Hurst Island, part of Gods Pocket Provincial Park

Gods Pocket Resort, on Hurst Island, part of Gods Pocket Provincial Park.
Image ID: 34497
Location: British Columbia, Canada

Natural History Photography – Best Photos of 2017

Best Photographs of the Year

My Best Natural History Photographs of 2017

2017 offered opportunities for me to visit remote and seldom-seen Clipperton Island, frolic with enormous Steller Sea Lions in the chilly waters of British Columbia, photograph (again) the wonderful underwater and aerial views of the Sea of Cortez, hike among Southern California’s technicolor hillsides during 2017’s amazing springtime Super Bloom, spend hours hanging out with a huge courting aggregation of Black Sea Bass amid Catalina’s gorgeous kelp forests and photograph some aerial views of America’s Finest City, San Diego.

This is the eleventh year in a row I have done an annual retrospective. My creative goal for any one year is, as it always has been, to shoot 3-4 world-class images and 10-15 portfolio-quality images. Below are my favorites from 2017. If you like these feel free to check out previous years’ favorites as well: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007. Also, be sure to check out Jim Goldstein’s blog, where he collects the “best of the year” collections of many talented photographers.  Thanks Jim! Cheers and Thanks for looking!

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32661
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32663
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Plumose Anemone, Metridium farcimen, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Metridium farcimen

Plumose Anemone, Metridium farcimen, Hornby Island, British Columbia
Image ID: 32809
Species: Giant Plumose Anemone, Metridium farcimen
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32889
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Cabo Pearce on Socorro Island, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Cabo Pearce on Socorro Island, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico
Image ID: 32909
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

San Benedicto Island and Barcena crater, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

San Benedicto Island and Barcena crater, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico
Image ID: 32938
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific, Porites lobata

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific
Image ID: 32963
Species: Porites lobata
Location: Clipperton Island, France

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33131
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, during the 2017 Superbloom, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, during the 2017 Superbloom
Image ID: 33168
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, during the 2017 Superbloom, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, during the 2017 Superbloom
Image ID: 33246
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Fin Whale, Aerial Photo, Baja California, Balaenoptera physalus

Fin Whale, Aerial Photo, Baja California
Image ID: 33267
Species: Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalus
Location: Baja California, Mexico

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. Calf exhibits embryonic folds characteristic of a very young whale. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place, Eschrichtius robustus

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. Calf exhibits embryonic folds characteristic of a very young whale. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place.
Image ID: 33271
Species: Gray Whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33289
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Carcharhinus falciformis, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33313
Species: Silky Shark, Carcharhinus falciformis
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33354
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest.
Image ID: 33444
Species: Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Corynactis anemone polyp, a corallimorph,  extends its arms into passing ocean currents to catch food, Corynactis californica, San Diego, California

Corynactis anemone polyp, a corallimorph, extends its arms into passing ocean currents to catch food
Image ID: 33475
Species: Strawberry Anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Cardon Cactus on Isla San Diego, Aerial View, Baja California

Cardon Cactus on Isla San Diego, Aerial View, Baja California
Image ID: 33578
Location: Isla San Diego, Baja California, Mexico

Minute starfish (sea star) living on larger starfish, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Isla San Diego, Baja California

Minute starfish (sea star) living on larger starfish, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 33587
Location: Isla San Diego, Baja California, Mexico

Isla San Diego and Coral Reef, reef extends from Isla San Diego to Isla San Jose,  aerial photo, Sea of Cortez, Baja California

Isla San Diego and Coral Reef, reef extends from Isla San Diego to Isla San Jose, aerial photo, Sea of Cortez, Baja California
Image ID: 33601
Location: Isla San Diego, Baja California, Mexico

Longnose hawkfish on black coral, underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California

Longnose hawkfish on black coral, underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California
Image ID: 33616
Location: Baja California, Mexico

Natural Salt Lake on Isla San Jose, Aerial View, Sea of Cortez

Natural Salt Lake on Isla San Jose, Aerial View, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 33620
Location: Isla San Jose, Baja California, Mexico

Isla San Francisquito, Aerial View, Sea of Cortez

Isla San Francisquito, Aerial View, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 33627
Location: Isla San Francisquito, Baja California, Mexico

Tiny shrimp living on Starfish, Sea of Cortez, Isla San Diego, Baja California, Mexico

Tiny shrimp living on Starfish, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 33709
Location: Isla San Diego, Baja California, Mexico

Bluechin Parrotfish Eye Detail, Scarus ghobban, Sea of Cortez, Isla Cayo, Baja California, Mexico

Bluechin Parrotfish Eye Detail, Scarus ghobban, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 33751
Location: Isla Cayo, Baja California, Mexico

Serpulid polychaete Christmas Tree Worm, Sea of Cortez, Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California, Mexico

Serpulid polychaete Christmas Tree Worm, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 33782
Location: Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California, Mexico

Orange Cup Coral, Tubastrea coccinea, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California

Orange Cup Coral, Tubastrea coccinea, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 33806
Location: Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California, Mexico

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Children's Pool, Casa Cove and La Jolla Coastline. The underwater reef is exposed by extreme low tide

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Children's Pool, Casa Cove and La Jolla Coastline. The underwater reef is exposed by extreme low tide.
Image ID: 33875
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Three Arch Bay, Mussel Cove and Three Arch Rock, Laguna Beach Coastline, Aerial Photo

Three Arch Bay, Mussel Cove and Three Arch Rock, Laguna Beach Coastline, Aerial Photo
Image ID: 34043
Location: Laguna Beach, California, USA

Turning aspen trees in Autumn, South Fork of Bishop Creek Canyon, Bishop Creek Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains

Turning aspen trees in Autumn, South Fork of Bishop Creek Canyon
Image ID: 34158
Location: Bishop Creek Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, USA

Submarine Reef with Hydrocoral and Corynactis Anemones, Farnsworth Banks, Catalina Island

Submarine Reef with Hydrocoral and Corynactis Anemones, Farnsworth Banks, Catalina Island
Image ID: 34170
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Kelp fronds and pneumatocysts. Pneumatocysts, gas-filled bladders, float the kelp plant off the ocean bottom toward the surface and sunlight, where the leaf-like blades and stipes of the kelp plant grow fastest. Giant kelp can grow up to 2' in a single day given optimal conditions. Epic submarine forests of kelp grow throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Catalina Island

Kelp fronds and pneumatocysts. Pneumatocysts, gas-filled bladders, float the kelp plant off the ocean bottom toward the surface and sunlight, where the leaf-like blades and stipes of the kelp plant grow fastest. Giant kelp can grow up to 2' in a single day given optimal conditions. Epic submarine forests of kelp grow throughout California's Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 34173
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas, in the California Kelp Forest

Catalina, Underwater Photography

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33354
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33355
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

I recently spent several hours alone amidst a large aggregation of black sea bass (Stereolepis gigas, aka, giant sea bass) and managed to shoot some nice photos. I’ve been diving in California for almost 30 years, with 1000+ dives in the kelp forest, but until now had only been able to see black sea bass a few times and then only fleetingly. Hammered hard by commercial fishing through the 1970s, black sea bass were nearly wiped out. In the early 1980’s they received protection and began a long slow recovery. In the 1990’s, when I did most of my diving at San Clemente Island, black sea bass were still relatively few but we did see them, usually one or two here or there. It was a big deal to glimpse one of these volkswagens cruising over the reef or emerging from a thicket of kelp, and we would be stoked to share our sightings with one another when we all got back on the boat. I took the next 10 years off of diving, but fortunately black sea bass continued to recover, with more and more being seen every year. Around 5 years ago I started getting back into it and kept my ear to the ground for black sea bass news. I would hear that Catalina, especially, seemed to be the place to see them, and often in aggregations during summer.

We were recently vacationing for a week near Avalon, and I took one of my underwater cameras to do some available light photography of the kelp forests, which have been thickening again after two years of hardship with all the warm water southern California has experienced. I did a little tank diving, and a little freediving, in a beautiful kelp forest. After two days I was satisfied with the images I got:

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean’s surface like a submarine forest.
Image ID: 33433
Species: Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Image ID: 33434

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Image ID: 33436

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Image ID: 33446

On the last full day of our stay on Catalina, I decided to make an early morning dive and head out a little deeper than I had been freediving, to range far and cover lots of ground on a tank in the hope of seeing a black sea bass. I had seen one the day before as it buzzed me, sneaking up behind me and swimming over my shoulder as I was holding my breath in a kelp forest grotto. So I knew at least one was around, but honestly did not expect to see another. No sooner did I get to 60′ then I found myself among a group of at least 12. The most I was ever able to count at once was 12, but I think there were a few more. I spent the entire hour with them, alone. I was sort of in a state of shock, not really believing what I was seeing. I was elbow to pec fin with these giants. They were slowly moving about the kelp, following one another, gently bumping each other and me. A few would be hovered in the kelp, really wrapped up in it and hard to see, with their nose headed into the current that was bending the kelp over. Occasionally there would be a sudden popping grunt-like sound. The first grunt I heard startled me, it was quite loud and I felt it in my bones. I could not attribute it to any one fish. Eventually, after hearing it a number of times, I decided that a few of the black sea bass that were following others were making these sounds since the moment the sound was produced the “follower” would give a big kick and pursue one of the other fish with vigor. I believe what was going on was a form of courtship, or an interaction among the fish to establish dominance. In my experience, there is little socializing like this that goes on underwater, among any marine species, that is not somehow related to procreation. I felt lucky, and privileged in a way, not simply to be witness to this gathering but to hover amid the kelp with it happening all around me. I was surrounded by circling giant sea bass. These fish were large, several of them 4′ to 6′ long, and were so near to me at times I had to push myself back to frame them properly with my camera. More than once I would be photographing one in front of me and would be bumped from the side or behind by another. Full grown black sea bass are massive (up to 8′ and 500 lbs) and while at no point was there any kind of threat or danger, it was still adreneline-producing to be so close to something that could easily smack the mask off my face or the camera out of my hands with a flick of its tail.

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33356
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33357
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

I came ashore, emotionally spent and hoping that I did not screw up the photos. I figured that was it, I would never see it again. We went for a hike to the top of the island, then had a nice lunch in Avalon Canyon at the taco place. I asked Tracy if I could sneak in another dive, I thought maybe the fish would still be around? She was all for it. I switched out my fisheye lens for my widest rectalinear lens, zipped down to the spot in our golf cart, got back in the water on a tank around 4pm. The light was getting low and the water was milkier and with more particulate than it had been earlier in the day. I swam back to the spot and sure enough, all of the black sea bass were there. I recognized many from earlier in the day by the scratches or spots they had. One in particular had come up to my face and opened his mouth several times in the morning, and sure enough he did it again. Was he expecting me to clean his gill plate? As tempting as it was (I’ve cleaned molas in the open ocean before, it was gross and fun), I didn’t want to become part of what was going on around me, so I refrained from relieving this fellow from the lice that were plaguing his face.

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33361
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33362
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33364
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33370
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33378
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33358
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33359
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33363
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33368
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

After another hour among these beasts, I had spent my tank and bottom time and swam back to the surface. This time I knew the catbird seat was mine, for the day at least, as I had had out-lasted lady luck and finally seen black sea bass as I had always hoped, indeed, far better than I had ever hoped.

Two Days in Las Islas Revillagigedo

Aerial Photography, Mexico, Revillagigedos Islands, Underwater Photography

On the return from Clipperton Island to Cabo San Lucas, we stopped for a few days to dive at Socorro Island and San Benedicto Island, two islands in the Revillagigedos Archipelago. These stark volcanic islands offer some of the best diving in the world, with spectacular encounters with sharks, manta rays, dolphins and whales being common. We dove at Cabo Pearce for a day, with manta rays on every dive. The next day we spent at San Benedicto Island, again with sharks and mantas. A few of my favorites are below and show why the Revillagigedos is such a remarkable place. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33281
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Carcharhinus falciformis, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33310
Species: Silky Shark, Carcharhinus falciformis
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33285
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Cabo Pearce on Socorro Island, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Cabo Pearce on Socorro Island, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico
Image ID: 32905
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

San Benedicto Island and Barcena crater, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

San Benedicto Island and Barcena crater, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico
Image ID: 32914
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Barcena volcano crater, highest point on San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Barcena volcano crater, highest point on San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 32922
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33276
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33286
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33294
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Carcharhinus falciformis, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33313
Species: Silky Shark, Carcharhinus falciformis
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Carcharhinus falciformis, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33316
Species: Silky Shark, Carcharhinus falciformis
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Yellowfin tuna at the Boiler, San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Yellowfin tuna at the Boiler, San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33352
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Photographs of Southern California’s Spring Wildflowers — the 2017 Super Bloom

Carlsbad, Desert, Joshua Tree, San Diego, Wildflowers

During March and early April of this year I was chasing the wildflower bloom around the southernmost parts of California. The wildflower bloom was indeed spectacular and went on for weeks with vast displays of color. Was it a “super bloom”? I’m not sure. Somewhere during March the interwebs began using “super bloom” and the term stuck. I’ve seen wildflower blooms equally spectacular in the past, especially in the desert, so perhaps those past events were all “super blooms” as well. One huge difference this year is that social media and news outlets picked up on it and created crowds the like I have never seen before. I did much of my photographing midweek in order for me to find solitude in the flower fields — weekends were out of the question due to the sheer number of people. My outings took me to Anza Borrego Desert State Park (many times), Joshua Tree National Park, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Elsinore, Hemet, Santa Rosa Plateau, Mount Palomar, La Jolla, and my backyard of La Costa and Carlsbad. Below are 42 of my favorite spring wildflower images from the Super Bloom of 2017. They are presented in the order in which they were made, starting around March 6 and ending mid April. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Poppies, Elsinore

California Poppies, Elsinore
Image ID: 33115
Location: Elsinore, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33120
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33124
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33126
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33131
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33134
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33139
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33142
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33144
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33146
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate.
Image ID: 33151
Location: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33154
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33161
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33164
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33168
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33173
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33179
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33184
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33186
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33188
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33192
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33193
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33198
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33200
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33208
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33213
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33220
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33227
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33229
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33231
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33234
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33237
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33238
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33240
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33242
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33243
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33244
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33246
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33249
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33252
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33257
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise
Image ID: 33264
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Photographs of Clipperton Island, Ile de Passion

Aerial Photography, Clipperton Island, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

In May of 2017 I was fortunate to join an expedition to Clipperton Island (more info on Wikipedia’s Clipperton page). Organized by Michel Labrecque and Julie Ouimet and conducted under French permit HC / 1485 / CAB with generous support from Oris Watches and many others, our two-week trip used San Jose del Cabo as the launching point. The boat Nautilus Undersea (formerly Undersea Hunter of Cocos) — a very capable and seaworthy dive boat — would be our home at sea. Hailing from Canada, France (including New Caledonia), England, Mexico and the United States, our talented group of scientists, journalists, geographers, film makers, explorers and photographers spent 6 days at the tiny, remote atoll.

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32835
Location: Clipperton Island, France

My primary interest was simply to experience the trip, to relax and allow myself to absorb as much of the island as I could with all my senses without getting too bogged down with the distraction of photography concerns. I have visited and dived many of the notable islands in the near eastern Pacific, from California’s Channel Islands south to the Galapagos archipelago, many of them repeatedly, but I had not yet seen Clipperton Island so in that sense it was very high on my bucket list of islands. In spite of the fact I will probably never return to Clipperton Island, I had no real photographic agenda. I brought a drone, three underwater cameras and one topside camera and just let the daily pace of the trip govern which I would pick up and use and where I would point it.

Coconut palm trees on Clipperton Island, aerial photo. Clipperton Island is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Coconut palm trees on Clipperton Island, aerial photo. Clipperton Island is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32846
Location: Clipperton Island, France

The diving at Clipperton Island was very nice with healthy coral reefs and a variety of familiar-looking fish species. I was most impressed with the vast fields of huge, round Porites lobata coral heads. In many parts of the reef these enormous Porites clusters have grown together into a single shelf 20-50 yards across, very impressive indeed. There was a considerable amount of fishing gear found on the reefs, and our sitings of sharks were few and far between, evidence perhaps of fishing pressure on the shark species although that is not a certain conclusion.

Topside the island is harsh: little shade, no water, and very hot. Sunburn was a real risk since the equatorial sun would not only strike exposed skin from above but also reflected from the ocean as well as the bright white coralline rubble beaches. How the seabirds survive at Clipperton, or any of the similar islands, is beyond me. Most notable is the amount of plastic debris found on the island, testament to the seemingly insurmountable amount of plastic now present in our oceans. Several members of the scientific team performed surveys of the various plastics found on the beach to better understand where the debris is originating and how it is composed.

The French tricolor flag flies over Clipperton Island at sunset. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

The French tricolor flag flies over Clipperton Island at sunset. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32902
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Photographically, I was happiest with the aerial images I made with my drone. I put the flying camera in the air as often as I could, 6-8 times a day, learning what did and did not work as far as composing sweeping panoramic views of the island as well as images depicting details of the lagoon, palm groves, beaches and Clipperton Rock. There is really no way to fully appreciate the beauty of Clipperton Island without seeing it from a position of some vertical relief. The contrast of the deep, clean, blue oceanic water surrounding the crisp white beaches, surrounding a contrasting set of green, black and orange lagoon hues, can only be appreciated by the birds that inhabit the island, the occasional airliner flying far overhead, and now, thanks to drones, us.

Below are a few of my favorite images from the trip, or you can see my entire Clipperton Island photo gallery. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial photo of M/V Nautilus Undersea at Clipperton Island.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial photo of M/V Nautilus Undersea at Clipperton Island. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32886
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32889
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Clipperton Rock, a 95' high volcanic remnant, is the highest point on Clipperton Island, a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Clipperton Rock, a 95′ high volcanic remnant, is the highest point on Clipperton Island, a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32940
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blotcheye soldierfish and Clipperton Island coral reef, Porites sp, Porites lobata, Porites arnaudi

Blotcheye soldierfish and Clipperton Island coral reef, Porites sp.
Image ID: 32951
Species: Porites lobata, Porites arnaudi
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blue-spotted jacks and coral reef, Clipperton Island

Blue-spotted jacks and coral reef, Clipperton Island.
Image ID: 32952
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Fishing Longline, Wrapped and Embedded in Coral Head, Clipperton Island

Fishing Longline, Wrapped and Embedded in Coral Head, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32955
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blue-striped Snapper and Panamic Green Moray Eel on coral reef, Clipperton Island, Gymnothorax castaneus

Blue-striped Snapper and Panamic Green Moray Eel on coral reef, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32957
Species: Panamic Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax castaneus
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific, Porites lobata

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific
Image ID: 32963
Species: Porites lobata
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Underwater ROV Preparing to Dive at Clipperton Island

Underwater ROV Preparing to Dive at Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32964
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific, Porites lobata

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific
Image ID: 32998
Species: Porites lobata
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Bigeye Trevally, Bigeye Jacks, Caranx sexfasciatus, Clipperton Island

Bigeye Trevally, Bigeye Jacks, Caranx sexfasciatus, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33021
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Brown booby, Clipperton island, Sula leucogaster

Brown booby, Clipperton island
Image ID: 33088
Species: Brown Booby, Sula leucogaster
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Nazca Booby, Clipperton Island

Nazca Booby, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33093
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Plastic Trash and Debris, Clipperton Island

Plastic Trash and Debris, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33098
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Sunrise over Clipperton Island, Panorama

Sunrise over Clipperton Island, Panorama
Image ID: 33103
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island.  The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island. The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32866
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island.  The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island. The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32878
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Booby Bird Carcass on Barren Coral Rubble Beach, Clipperton Island

Booby Bird Carcass on Barren Coral Rubble Beach, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33095
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Skiff and Palm Trees, Sunrise, Clipperton Island

Skiff and Palm Trees, Sunrise, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33102
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Steller Sea Lions, Eumetopias jubatus, Hornby Island, British Columbia

Canada, Hornby Island, Sea Lion, Underwater Photography

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32660
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I have a real love for pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). I’ve been in the water with many big animals including whales, sharks, dolphins, massive schools of fish, mola mola, etc etc, but pinnipeds — particularly sea lions — are the most fun to be with. Sea lions are typically curious and engaging, and the speed with which they move usually makes photographing them a challenge. The Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) at Norris Rocks near Hornby Island in British Columbia, however, take the cake. They are akin to gigantic puppies. They are considerably larger than California sea lions, a fact which was immediately apparent the first time I was pinned to the reef by a friendly mob of 20 juvenile Stellers. I had been warned about their antics by a few buddies who have been diving with them for years. One fellow even jokingly (or not) suggested a helmet might be helpful. I processed all this info and wondered whether I should be worried. I had never been in 45F-degree water, had not been in a drysuit in 15 years, was admittedly a little nervous about just surviving in such chilly water, so my dive plan was to hang back and watch the other divers get pummeled. It did not go as planned. Less than 5 minutes after I first got in the water at Norris Rocks I found myself face down on the reef, both wrists and both ankles firmly in the grip (re: mouth) of at least four different sea lions, regulator gently tugged by a fifth, and several others trying to nuzzle their faces close to mine for a look. Holy shit, I thought, is this stupid, crazy or super fun? Yes, yes, and yes. Every piece of my gear was a chew toy. Every one of my limbs was a chew toy. My head was a chew toy. It was an exhilarating, intimidating, wonderful experience to be with a mob of Steller sea lions, such a dense group that it would often blot out what little sunlight was reaching the bottom. While I try to avoid anthropomorphising the animals I meet underwater, these Stellers were so inquisitive, with so much very close eye contact, that every dive was a moving experience. Every time I got out of the water I felt more alive than I had in a long time. It only took a few dives for me to become comfortable with the action, and I found that even while getting mobbed I was still able to lift my camera up enough to snap off a photo or two. Granted, most of them were crap, either because the sea lions were too close for the strobe to light properly, or both strobes had been yanked backward by a couple sea lions, or there were simply too many bubbles in the water for anything sensible to be photographed.

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo
Image ID: 32659
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I joined underwater photographer Richard Salas for the week. Richard’s work is exceptional and caught my eye some years ago. His style of lighting is especially appealing, bringing his broad experience as a studio and commercial photographer to the underwater world. When I found that my schedule allowed me to join him at Hornby Island to dive with Steller sea lions, I jumped at the chance in spite of my lack of experience in cold water. He gave me lots of great advice beforehand. Armed with a new drysuit I joined Richard and his group of friends at Hornby Island Diving. Rob and Amanda Zielinski run the lodge and dive operation on their property at the waters edge on beautiful Hornby Island. Rob took us diving in his comfortable, quick boat at dive spots just a few minutes from the dock. Amanda runs the lodge where we experienced superb food and lots of peace and quiet to keep us comfortable and warm between dives. Hornby Island Diving is a excellent operation, one of the best I have seen, which is especially important given the weather and water temps can be tough in winter. We had overcast skies most days with a couple of blue sky days, very little wind and calm seas. Water temps were right around 45F the entire week. Water visibility was great, relatively clean with a beautiful emerald green color. We dove twice a day with lunch between dives. I took a day off midweek to make a couple really beautiful hikes on Hornby Island. Over 6 days of diving I made 10 dives at Norris Rocks (and a couple dives elsewhere) and shot thousands of photographs, trying to squeek out a few good images in the chaos of action, bubbles, flippers and teeth that really portray how beautiful these huge creatures are. Gradually some keepers emerged, a couple on each dive, and in the end I was pleased with the images I made. These are some of my favorites. I am planning to return in 2019 for more. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32661
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32662
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32663
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32664
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32670
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32679
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32685
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater,  a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater, a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32695
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32757
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32675
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32687
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32737
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32777
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32788
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32789
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Natural History Photography – Best Photos of 2016

Best Photographs of the Year

My Best Natural History Photographs of 2016

2016 offered opportunities for me to photograph underwater and aerial views in the Sea of Cortez, sharks in the Bahamas, stingrays in the Cayman Islands, astrophotography landscapes in Grand Teton National Park, summer in Lake Tahoe, autumn in Mineral King, the Zion Narrows again, and as always America’s Finest City, San Diego.

This is the tenth year in a row I have done an annual retrospective. My creative goal for any one year is, as it always has been, to shoot 3-4 world-class images and 10-15 portfolio-quality images. Below are my favorites from 2016. If you like these feel free to check out previous years’ favorites as well: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007. Also, be sure to check out Jim Goldstein’s blog, where he collects the “best of the year” collections of many talented photographers.  Thanks Jim! Cheers and Thanks for looking!

Two tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier

Two tiger sharks
Image ID: 31875
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran

Great hammerhead shark
Image ID: 31966
Species: Great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran
Location: Bimini, Bahamas

Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi

Caribbean reef shark
Image ID: 31977
Species: Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi
Location: Bahamas

Lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris

Lemon shark
Image ID: 32015
Species: Lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris
Location: Bahamas

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32070
Location: Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32101
Location: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, Grand Cayman Island

Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32137
Location: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Southern Stingrays, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island

Southern Stingrays, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32162
Location: Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32165
Location: Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32178
Location: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California
Image ID: 32257
Location: Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, California, USA

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California
Image ID: 32273
Location: Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, California, USA

Teton Range from Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

Teton Range from Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park
Image ID: 32312

Milky Way over T.A. Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park

Milky Way over T.A. Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park
Image ID: 32316

Eagle Falls at Sunrise, Lake Tahoe, California

Eagle Falls at Sunrise, Lake Tahoe, California
Image ID: 32326
Location: Lake Tahoe, California, USA

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Image ID: 32331
Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Image ID: 32334
Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

Underwater Sunlight, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Underwater Sunlight, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Image ID: 32358
Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

Punta Colorada and San Gabriel Bay, aerial photo, Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Punta Colorada and San Gabriel Bay, aerial photo, Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 32368
Location: Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes, part of Archipelago Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Aerial Photo

Los Islotes, part of Archipelago Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Aerial Photo
Image ID: 32397
Location: Baja California, Mexico

Punta Alta and La Cueva, Baja California, Sea of Cortez, aerial photograph

Punta Alta and La Cueva, Baja California, Sea of Cortez, aerial photograph
Image ID: 32435
Location: Punta Alta, Baja California, Mexico

Isla San Francisquito, Aerial Photo, Sea of of Cortez

Isla San Francisquito, Aerial Photo, Sea of of Cortez
Image ID: 32441
Location: Isla San Francisquito, Baja California, Mexico

Boat Ambar and School of Fish, Ensenada el Embudo, Isla Partida, aerial photo

Boat Ambar and School of Fish, Ensenada el Embudo, Isla Partida, aerial photo
Image ID: 32456
Location: Isla Partida, Baja California, Mexico

Sea Lions playing in shallow water, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez

Sea Lions playing in shallow water, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 32506
Location: Los Islotes, Baja California, Mexico

Sea Lion Underwater, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez

Sea Lion Underwater, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 32522
Location: Los Islotes, Baja California, Mexico

California Sea Lion Hunts in a School of Scad Fish, Sea of Cortez

California Sea Lion Hunts in a School of Scad Fish, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 32600
Location: Baja California, Mexico

Fall Colors in the Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Fall Colors in the Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
Image ID: 32609
Location: Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah, USA

The Virgin River Narrows, where the Virgin River has carved deep, narrow canyons through the Zion National Park sandstone, creating one of the finest hikes in the world

The Virgin River Narrows, where the Virgin River has carved deep, narrow canyons through the Zion National Park sandstone, creating one of the finest hikes in the world.
Image ID: 32622
Location: Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Aerial Video of Archipelago Espiritu Santo and the Sea of Cortez

Aerial Photography, Mexico, Sea of Cortez, Video

In October I was fortunate to be a guest aboard a friend’s boat for 9 days, diving the islands north of La Paz, Mexico. One of our goals was to obtain visuals of the Archipelago Espiritu Santo as part of an effort to support legislative proposals seeking greater environmental protections for the area. The Archipelago, consisting of three islands — Isla Partida, Los Islotes and Isla Espiritu Santo — is considered by many to be the most beautiful island group in the Sea of Cortez. Following is a rough edit, a sampler, of some of the video we obtained. Be sure to click the small gear at lower right and select “1080 HD”. Cheers and thanks for watching!

Humpback Whale Underwater Bubble Streaming Among Rowdy Groups in Hawaii

Hawaii, Humpback Whale

During the years I worked for Dan Salden and Hawaii Whale Research Foundation studying humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Hawaii, we usually looked for surface active groups (“rowdy groups“) when possible, since these groups offered the greatest potential for collecting the social affiliation information that was the focus of Dan’s decades of research on humpback whales. Bubble blasts and bubble streaming were often a part of the rowdy group’s activities, by one or several whales. We would spend time photographing as many fluke IDs as we could, to identify which whales were in the group, as well as noting those animals that would depart or join during the time we were observing them. Eventually, if conditions were right, we would enter the water to observe them below the surface. The goal at this point was to determine the roles that the individual whales had: primary escort, challenging escorts, focal female, peripheral individuals, etc. Often these roles are clear from topside views, but not always, so getting in the water is important. Gradually, over years of observation, we accumulated a lot of interesting, unique video of active groups, including the bubble streaming that would occur in these groups. I had opportunities to shoot still photographs of the bubble streaming too. Below are some of my favorite images of humpback whales from my time in Hawaii. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater near mother and calf. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf. The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother.
Image ID: 05928
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female (left) during a competitive group.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 02828
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Primary escort male humpback whale bubble streaming during competitive group socializing.  This primary escort is swimming behind a female. The bubble curtain may be a form of intimidation towards other male escorts that are interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Primary escort male humpback whale bubble streaming during competitive group socializing. This primary escort is swimming behind a female.
Image ID: 04432
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf (barely seen in the distance), Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf (barely seen in the distance).
Image ID: 04434
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female during competitive group activities.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female during competitive group activities.
Image ID: 04444
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 05925
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Male North Pacific humpback whale streams a trail of bubbles.  The primary male escort whale (center) creates a curtain of bubbles underwater as it swims behind a female (right), with other challenging males trailing behind in a competitive group.  The bubbles may be a form of intimidation from the primary escort towards the challenging escorts, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Male North Pacific humpback whale streams a trail of bubbles. The primary male escort whale (center) creates a curtain of bubbles underwater as it swims behind a female (right), with other challenging males trailing behind in a competitive group.
Image ID: 05968
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.   The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female, .  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby males interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female.
Image ID: 06001
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.   The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female, .  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby males interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.
Image ID: 06037
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female (left) during a competitive group.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 02826
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

NOTE: These photographs were taken during Hawaii Whale Research Foundation research activities conducted under NOAA/NMFS and State of Hawaii scientific research permits.